The museum’s physical campus includes three city blocks and several off-site properties. Here you will find a unique collection of buildings, gardens, and architectural fragments spanning three centuries. This guide will help you find and enjoy them.
The Peabody Essex Museum has been a pioneer in the acquisition, relocation, restoration, and interpretation of historic environments. In 1865 the museum reconstructed the Quaker Meeting House from beams thought to be original to the First Church. In 1910, under the direction of curator and early preservationist George Francis Dow, the museum moved the John Ward House — split in two and rolled on ox-drawn logs — from its original site three blocks away. In 1911 that house opened to the public, becoming the first outdoor museum of architecture in the country. Since then, the Peabody Essex Museum has grown to include more than twenty pre-Civil War buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks and many properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Salem has a uniquely rich architectural heritage. Every major American architectural style is represented within its borders. Below is a guide to some of the styles you will encounter at the Peabody Essex Museum.
First Period or Post-Medieval is the earliest style of architecture found in New England. English colonists brought Medieval building methods to the New World with them, adapting traditional methods to the materials they found. Look for massive central chimneys; steeply pitched, many-gabled roofs; asymmetrical door and window patterns; batten doors; diamond-paned leaded casement windows; and second-floor overhangs.
Georgian style is based on classical models popular in Britain in the early eighteenth century. Excavations of Nero’s Golden Dome, and later of Pompeii and Herculaneum, sparked great interest in ancient architecture. Look for orderly, symmetrical façades-usually of two stories; transom lights or small rectangular windows over doors; double-hung sash windows; gambrel roofs; and classical details such as pediments, pilasters, and columns.
Federal style is an American adaptation of the Neoclassical, Roman, or Adam style popular in Britain in the late eighteenth century. Look for orderly, symmetrical façades, usually of three stories; fanlights above doors and sidelights beside doors; semicircular porches; double-hung window sashes; hipped roofs; and classical details such as pediments, pilasters, and columns. Scale and proportion are very important to this style of house.
Greek Revival structures are usually one or two stories with a façade that resembles a Greek temple. Columns or pilasters typically have Doric or Ionic capitals. Details such as dormer windows have prominent pediments. Granite is a favored material.
Italianate town houses are usually built of sandstone in dark brownish or reddish colors. They are meant to evoke the farmhouses of northern Italy. These houses are often square or cube-shaped with wide, overhanging wooden eaves held up by large brackets. Round-topped windows and cupolas are common.
The Phillips Library Neighborhood is the center of the museum’s architectural collection. Three centuries of extraordinary New England architecture, set in Federal-style gardens, may be found within this one city block. As a rule, the buildings whose exteriors are wood-clad have been moved to the site; those clad in brick or stone are original to the site.
- The first Quaker Meeting House (Federal Garden area) in Salem was built around 1688. The current building, erected in 1865 to resemble a Post-Medieval or First Period structure, is a reconstruction of the Quaker Meeting House and may contain some of the original timber framing. It is most interesting today as a very early example of an architectural re-creation.
- Ten-foot-by-ten-foot vernacular outbuildings (also called “10 footers”), such as the Lye-Tapley Shoe Shop (Federal Garden area), ca. 1830, were common at one time on the North Shore — a center for shoemaking in the nineteenth century. Very few 10 footers survive today. The building currently houses a collection of significant preindustrial shoemaking tools.
- John Ward House (Federal Garden area), ca. 1684, is one of the finest surviving seventeenth-century buildings in New England. It originally stood on a one-acre plot with a kitchen garden, an outhouse, and a well — opposite the jail used during the witchcraft trials. The house was moved to the museum campus in 1910. The style of this house is often called First Period or Post-Medieval — characterized by the extremely steep pitch of the gables, large central chimney, asymmetrical façade, batten door, diamond-paned leaded casement windows, and second-story overhang. One of the earliest buildings to be relocated and restored for historic interpretation in the United States, the house is a National Historic Landmark.
- Andrew-Safford House (13 Washington Square), 1819, was designed in the Federal style by an unknown architect for a wealthy Russian fur merchant. It is reputed to have been the most costly house erected in the United States to that date. The massive vertical façade and the four large columns rising from the ground to the third story on the south side make this one of the most impressive houses in Salem. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- Crowninshield-Bentley House (126 Essex Street), ca. 1727, was built for fish merchant and ship captain John Crowninshield. This modest house in the Georgian style was moved one block to the museum’s campus in 1959. Like most houses in eighteenth-century Salem, it originally stood at the curb. Characteristics of its Georgian Colonial style include its long, rectangular shape with an orderly symmetrical façade, and the paneled door with pediment, transom lights, and pilasters — all reflecting an interest in classicism. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- Gardner-Pingree House (128 Essex Street), 1804, was built for John Gardner, a wealthy Salem merchant and nephew of Elias Hasket “King” Derby, mentioned in the preface to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. This elegantly proportioned Federal-style house is one of Salem architect Samuel McIntire’s finest and best-preserved designs. It is a National Historic Landmark.
- Gardner-Pingree Carriage House (128 Essex Street, rear) was built in the 1860s for the Pingrees, the third family to occupy the Gardner-Pingree House.
- Derby-Beebe Summer House (Federal Garden area), 1799, is a one-room structure built in the Federal style and intended for serving light afternoon meals in a garden setting. All the trademarks of the Federal style are found in this small building, which epitomizes the gracious architecture and lifestyle of its era. It is one of only two surviving summer houses designed by Samuel McIntire.
- The Federal Garden (Federal Garden area) was laid out in 1988 as part of the restoration of the Gardner-Pingree House and the Derby-Beebe Summer House. The design of the garden is evocative of the original Derby Mansion landscape plan, ca. 1798.
- John Tucker Daland House (132 Essex Street), 1851, was built for a wealthy Salem merchant. It is one of the finest cube-type, single-family Italianate houses in New England and was among the last great brick townhouses built in Salem. Boston architect Gridley F. Bryant chose the Romano-Tuscan palazzo variation of the Italianate style for this impressive structure.
- Plummer Hall (132 Essex Street), 1856, designed by Enoch Fuller in the Italianate style, was built to house the Salem Athenaeum, a private library. It was purchased by the museum in 1906 and joined by a connector to Daland Mansion in 1907. Note the arched second-story windows and now-closed central arched door. Plummer Hall currently houses the Phillips Library reading room and three period rooms assembled by George Francis Dow. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Main Campus — located at the corner of the Essex Street and New Liberty Street (no longer a through way) — is the site of most of the museum’s gallery and office space, housed in buildings of various periods. Several historic structures comprise this part of the museum’s campus.
- Samuel Pickman House (Charter Street), ca. 1665, is a Post-Medieval or First Period building, “discovered” beneath a much-later mansard roof. It stands on its original site and exhibits the characteristics associated with this style. The house was restored by Historic Salem in 1969 and purchased by the museum in 1983. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- Summer School Building (Charter Street) was built in 1876 to house a biology summer school associated with the museum.
- Vilate Young (Kinsman) House (26 Charter Street), ca. 1841, is a Greek Revival residence built by Salem housewright John Kinsman. The house also features later Victorian additions such as the second-floor oriel window with Italianate detailing. Vilate Young, daughter of Brigham Young and early leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lived in the house with family friends for several years before moving to Salt Lake City.
- Gilbert Chadwick House (24 Charter Street), ca. 1805, is a three-story Federal-style building with later Italianate additions such as the second-floor bay window. A fire swept the area in 1866, which may have led to the Victorian “updating.” This house was moved from its original Liberty Street location.
- East India Marine Hall (East India Square) was built in 1824 in the Greek Revival style by architect Thomas Waldron Summer for the East India Marine Society-predecessor to the Peabody Essex Museum. Recently restored to its original elegance, the building is a National Historic Landmark.
- The L. H. Rogers Building (NW Corner Essex and New Liberty Streets) was erected by William Manning in 1830 in the Greek Revival style. Note the richly colored brick, granite-trimmed openings, and prominent rooftop dormers. The building was home to many retailers, including William Filene of Filene’s Department Stores, who began his operations here. It currently houses the museum’s office center.
- The Dodge Wing (SW Corner Essex and New Liberty Streets), 1974, was designed by Philip W. Bourne with Stahl, Bennett of Boston. This contemporary building of the Brutalist school is notable for its broad granite walls punctuated by narrow, dark-glass windows. It was the first addition to the museum in many decades, and its focus on turning inward was common for museums of the period.
- The Asian Export Art Wing (accessed through Dodge Wing, off East India Square), 1988, was designed by the celebrated architectural firm of Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood to represent the meeting of East and West at the Peabody Essex Museum. The building is notable for its use of unusual visual devices ’ such as unexpected windows and portholes that frame specific views or objects.
- The Asian Garden (East India Square) was designed in conjunction with the Asian Export Art Wing. Each view of the garden from the building is carefully framed and sited. Traditional Asian gardens require water, plants, and stone. Here, water is represented by the plum-shaped paving stones. Plants include bamboo and flowering plum. Stones include yingde and taihu.
- The McIntire Historic District is located a short three-block walk from the museum’s main campus. The district is rich with Georgian- and Federal-period houses designed or influenced by renowned architect Samuel McIntire (1757-1811). Trained as a woodcarver, McIntire spent his career designing Federal-style structures of surpassing beauty. His understanding of material is everywhere evident in his work ’ whether it be a portico, an urn, a molding, or a mantel. The museum owns three significant historic houses in the district named after this Salem native.
- Ropes Mansion (318 Essex Street), 1727, was built in the Georgian style and renovated in 1894 in the Colonial Revival style by the firm Stone, Carpenter & Wilson. Ropes Mansion was home to three generations of the Ropes family. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Ropes Garden (318 Essex Street) was designed and laid out in 1912 by John Robinson. It is a Colonial Revival garden ’ open to the public free of charge ’ that also includes a greenhouse.
- Samuel McIntire designed the Peirce-Nichols House (80 Federal Street), ca. 1782, in a transitional late-Georgian/early Federal style for Jerathmiel Peirce, co-owner of the merchant ship Friendship. McIntire remodeled portions of the house in the Federal style twenty years later. To the rear of the house are stables, and behind them ’ visible through an opening in the stable wall ’ a terraced lawn extends back to a small arbor. Originally the property swept down to the North River, where Captain Peirce could dock his ship at the foot of his own property. The house is a National Historic Landmark.
- Cotting-Smith Assembly House (138 Federal Street), 1782, was built as a Federalist Clubhouse in which balls, concerts, lectures, and other events might be held. George Washington attended a dance here. The original architect is unknown, but the house was later remodeled by Samuel McIntire for use as a private residence. The house is in the Federal style and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.